Col Khun Okker: Junta Doesn’t Want Federalism

By Network Media Group
Thursday, November 24, 2022

Pa-O leader Col Khun Okker said Burma’s junta wasn’t interested in a federal democratic system because it threatened its power. “It would be better for them to withdraw from politics with dignity”, but it seems they aren’t willing to do so because “democracy would hurt their power and authority as a military regime”.

Khun Okker told NMG that “their policy is to keep all the power and only give something away when it’s absolutely necessary”. The ethnic armed groups have been trying to negotiate for self-determination,equality and a federalism, but the junta keeps all the power in its hands while pretending to be the main player during negotiations, the leader said.

“They push their policy of nationalist politics and that’s why nothing new comes out of the meetings. They believe that they hold the sovereignty of this country and that only they can bring about change.”

Even former heads of state Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi seemed resistant to real democratic transformation, the Pa-O leader explained. After negotiating with the two Bamar (Burmese) leaders, “I don’t know if they themselves want to change the political system”.

All the military regimes in the Southeast Asian nation have ignored the ethnic population’s longstanding desire for self-determination and political equality, which they now believe could be achieved through a federal democracy. Instead of creating space for political dialogue and negotiations, the army has tried to wipe out the ethnic armed groups to suppress resistance.

In 2010, Thein Sein’s government signed ceasefires with many of the groups with the promise that political dialogue would be forthcoming but it didn’t happen under his watch. In 2015, before his term ended, some of the groups signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). But several groups fighting the military weren’t invited to the negotiating table, and others, such as the Kachin Independence Organisation, decided not to join unless the army left its territory and started political talks prior to it signing the so-called peace deal.

Signatories of the NCA attempted to negotiate with the newly elected National League for Democracy led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, but the army continued to block any meaningful requests and nothing was implemented. After last year’s coup, all political negotiations came to a standstill and the people’s desire for a federalist system has became an even more distant dream.